The Process of Becoming a Lawyer

by Scott Grabel

A lawyer's job is to advise their clients in legal matters, advocating for them, and defending them in court when necessary. Aspiring lawyers require extensive training in legal research, procedure, and writing to be successful. Upon completion of an undergraduate degree, students are required to attend and complete law school with a Juris Doctor degree. Lawyers must then pass the bar exam in the state they wish to practice in order to begin practicing law.

Once you have earned a bachelor's degree, you are able to apply to law school. In most cases, you are required to pass the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, in order to get into law school. If you know what you want to specialize in once completing your law degree, it may help to take courses in that particular field while studying for your undergraduate degree. For instance, if you want to become a criminal attorney, you should take criminal justice courses, while if you are interested in environmental law, it is a good idea to take some courses in environmental science.

There is not a particular field of study that is required when applying to law school but students should work on honing their speaking, reading, and argumentation skills while studying for a degree. Courses in English and political science are generally helpful for students looking to advance such skills. Political science and English courses are also good for strengthening critical thinking skills and preparing to take the Law School Admission Test.

Once an undergraduate degree has been obtained, it is time to apply to law school. Typically, students are in law school for three years and upon completion, earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Law schools do not follow a standardized or mandated curriculum but most schools aim to provide students with a comprehensive overview of the field of law. Law students will also learn how to conduct legal research online and in libraries in addition to learning legal writing. Students normally have to complete one and a half years of law school before beginning to enroll in specialized courses that focus on their particular field. During this time, law students are also encouraged to apply for externships that allow for the observation of and participation in legal procedures. Many law schools also offer law clinics in particular fields, allowing students to work with licensed attorneys in order to meet with clients and research precedents.

After earning a Juris Doctor degree, graduates of law school must take and pass the bar exam in the state in which they are planning to practice. The bar exam can consist of a variety of different tests and will vary depending on the jurisdiction where the test is being taken. The majority of jurisdictions will not only test on knowledge of the law but also on appropriate professional conduct. It may take law school graduates several attempts to pass the bar exam.

Becoming a lawyer requires a substantial amount of schooling and students must be serious about doing well in order to succeed and graduate from law school and then pass the bar exam. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers can expect to earn a median salary of about $114,000. For more information on becoming a lawyer, including education requirements, passing the bar exam, and more, consult the resources listed below.